Normal service has now resumed.Near Frankfurt, Germany August 23, 1943
The rookie on his third mission was in trouble. He had become fixated on the quartet FW-190 that were trying to break through the squadron's formation. The attention cost him as an experten claimed his hundred and eleventh kill twenty two seconds later with a low angle shot from the rear. The factory fresh Mustang burst into flames and the 23 year old struggled to get out as the aircraft plunged first past 20,000 feet and then 15,000 feet. Gravity pushed against him as flames began to lick his legs. Finally, he struggled to pull the stick up and slowed the descent of his mount before he scrambled out of the cockpit and jumped into the sky.
As he descended, chaos was all around him. Three battered bomber boxes were fighting off dozens of single engine fighters while a Mustang group was tangling with an almost equal number of -190s. Miles above and in front of him, he saw a massive explosion as high explosive shells ripped open a Tokyo tanked wing and an incendiary round lit up the remaining vapors. No chutes were visible. As he tried to ignore the pain in his burnt legs, he saw another pilot leaving his ruined steed and trusted that his silk would bring him safely to the ground. That man would be up again tomorrow or next week while he only had a stalag to look forward to. He drifted below the clouds and lost sight of the running battle above him.
Two hundred bombers were returning from their raid against a 109 factory. Three hundred fighters had been committed to giving them as much protection as possible. Half were Mustangs that could fly almost all the way to the target and back with their new drop tanks. The rest were a mix of Lightning and Thunderbolts. They had flown shuttle missions and provided swathes of increased protection before either running out of ammo or gas.
Eleven miles further west, a major waggled his wings and held up three fingers as the rest of the squadron of Mustangs re-assembled on him. The other section leaders called him, two aircraft were missing from the furball, one in a head on pass with an ME-110 and the other no one saw what had happened to the replacement pilot. They were excited, their claims were higher than typical, twenty three in total, for only two losses and half a dozen damaged escorts. The attacking Focke Wulfs had been turned away, their ammunition exhausted and fuel reserves run down. The Mustang squadron had given the bombers more time to escape.
The major's eyes squinted. Low and fast were dozens of dots on the horizon. Big fighters were on the way. He knew that most of his best pilots only had seconds of ammunition left, but twenty one fighters making a head on pass could buy the bombers time. He was getting ready to give the order to attack when the targets became friendlies. Thunderbolts were arriving to shepherd the bombers home. The Mustang squadron could now break off and head home independently as they were almost combat ineffective.
To be frank, most of my knowledge regarding the bombing campaign in NW Europe comes from Sbiper's superb "They shall reap the whirlwind". With my very limited knowledge it seems that TTL's summer 1943 is the equivalent of March-April 1944.This is the beginning of the end for the Jagdwaffe